The "Health Food" Holding You Back

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Originally published in Willis Towers Watson Dallas Market Newsletter December 2017.

What if there was one food, if eliminated from your diet, that could drive weight loss, improve digestion, reduce bloating, increase energy, and even help you avoid the post-lunch “afternoon slump”? Not only does this food exist you may been told your entire life that it’s a part of a healthy balanced diet.

It appears in your morning cereal, your lunchtime sandwich, and those couple of beers you had with coworkers after work. We’re talking about the ubiquitous wheat.

Wait a minute, aren’t whole grains good for us? Maybe not, let’s find out why. There are two major problems that wheat causes in your body: blood sugar spikes and leaky gut.

When we eat carbohydrates, especially processed carbohydrates such as refined sugars, our digestive system breaks these foods down and shuttles them into our bloodstream as blood sugar. Once in the blood stream, high blood sugar triggers a release of the hormone insulin storing this carbohydrate energy in our fat cells. The more pronounced our blood sugar spike, the more insulin is released and the more fat we store. This hormonal process explains the basics of why people see success losing weight by cutting back their sugar intake.

Some studies have shown that the blood sugar spike from wheat products, and corresponding insulin response, is even more dramatic than from pure sugar! You may have felt the effects of this cycle after a big sandwich or pasta lunch. The initial spike in blood sugar comes as a rush of energy and feeling upbeat - only to be followed by a dramatic crash, as your blood sugar drops and insulin kicks in to store that energy away.

The second downside to wheat is a particularly nasty condition called “leaky gut”, or the more clinical name “gut permeability syndrome.” The lining of your digestive system is very selective about what it allows to pass through into your body. It’s responsible for extracting valuable nutrients while keeping pathogens and toxins out.

One of the proteins in wheat, gluten, can damage the lining of your digestive tract to the point that it becomes far less selective and leaks the contents of your intestines into the rest of your body (yuck!). This causes systemic inflammation throughout your body, similar to a low grade sepsis. The inflammation from leaky gut can cause everything from weight gain and brain fog to joint pain, allergies, bloating, skin issues, and more. While there are other foods that can contribute to leaky gut, wheat is one of the prime offenders.

Looking to lose a few pounds, feel better? Try giving your gut a break and controlling your blood sugar by removing wheat from your diet. Just seven days should be enough to let you feel the wheat-free difference.

 

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